Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Palo Duro Canyon State Park - Texas

The next stop on our way to the 2015 Wally Byam (WBCCI) International Rally in Farmington, New Mexico, was the Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas. We had to travel about 20 miles off I-40 to get to this park, but the trip was well worth the diversion from the main road.

We had never been to this park, but a couple of people in our caravan had and they were telling everyone that Palo Duro Canyon State Park was amazing. That was an understatement! The park is home to the second largest canyon in America and the views from the campground are, as advertised, amazing.

The Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Our entrance into the park was delayed. The people in our site the previous night failed to check out and a ranger had to go and see what was going on. It turned out that this is a common problem in this campground. While the rangers were working to get the "poachers" out of our site, two other sets of "squatters" were identified in the camping loops and were evicted by the park. While interesting to watch the campground staff work to free our campsite, the bottom line was that it was after 6 p.m. before we could park Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer.

The road leading into the camping area was a surprise. We were not expecting the ten percent grade on the narrow road that wrapped around the canyon as we pulled Rosie to the campground. It was, as they say, a white knuckle experience making the sharp turns with three tons of of RV attached to the truck.

We saw the motorhome pulling away from our site as we approached it. The people in the site next to our's were also leaving at the same time. Chances are they were also site poachers. Later that evening, the campers on the other side of us also left. It appears that we were camping in an area with a reputation of the camping fees being optional.

Rosie in her camping site

Our late arrival created some problems for us. The Southeast Camping Unit's caravan had a lasagna dinner scheduled that night. After eating, we were going to attend the outdoor musical "Texas," which is performed in the park. Yes, we were the last ones to get to the caravan's dinner. The other campers were aware of our situation and made sure we had enough to eat. Immediately after eating, we were able to walk to the theater.

The theater where the musical Texas was performed

It was easy to see that the performers were college students earning some money during the summer break. They delivered a solid performance and the musical was very enjoyable.

The caravan stayed in Palo Duro Canyon State Park two days. This gave us some time to explore and enjoy the area. It also allowed us to rest after several travel days. This is a park that you can easily invest several days and we were very grateful that the Southeast Camping Unit's caravan scheduled a stop here. I am not sure we would have found this park through our normal wanderings in Rosie.

View from the canyon's floor

Non-selfie in the canyon

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Lots to see in this park

On our second day, most of the people in the caravan decided to head to the Big Texas Steak Ranch.
This is home to the 72 ounce steak dinner challenge. If you can eat a 72 ounce steak, Texas-size baked potato, salad, shrimp cocktail and a bread roll in one hour, your meal is free. The rules add that you must eat everything including any fat or gristle in one sitting and you must keep your food down until the contest is over. Anyone interested in the challenge must pay for his or her meal upfront. Those successful in mastering the 72 ounce steak challenge are given a refund. Most challengers end up paying full price for their meals.

No, we didn't accept the 72 ounce steak dinner challenge

I don't know how often someone accepts the challenge, but one person tried it while we were there. We didn't stick around for the full hour, but I suspect that the Big Texas Steak Ranch did not lose money on that challenge.

After eating in Amarillo, we headed back to the state park. There was an extra level of excitement because we had to drive to the floor of the canyon as it was getting dark.

The next morning we hitched-up Rosie and started to pull her out of the canyon. Our trip was delayed for about 30 minutes while the road was closed to allow a truck with an over-sized load descend into the canyon.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Sites in this park were gravel and back-in.
  • Our site had both water and electrical connections.
  • Our site had 50, 30 and 20 amp electrical service.
  • Our site did not have a sewer connection.
  • There were dump stations near each of the park's camping loops.
  • I was amazed to see that big rigs were able to make some of the turns on the road descending into the canyon. You need to know before booking a site here that you and your rig will be traveling on a steep grade and making some sharp turns.
  • AT&T placed a fleeting signal for voice and data over this park. There were a few moments when we saw service. Most of the time, our phones were simply useless.
  • We were able to see Fox, NBC and a couple of Spanish language TV stations using Rosie's antenna.
  • In addition to the camping fee, Texas state parks charge an additional $5 per day per person.
  • We were bothered by biting flies when outside. We were also amazed at the number of snakes we saw in the park.
  • There was an inconsistency in the upkeep of the restrooms in this park. Some were significantly cleaner than others. Some had fewer bugs than the one in our camping loop. Either cleaning the restrooms and showers was not a high priority or a large number of bugs are drawn into the bathhouse everyday to die there.
If you find yourself traveling I-40 across the Texas panhandle, you need to venture off the Interstate near Amarillo to camp in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. You will probably want to stay there more than a day to take in the natural beauty of this park.

The view from Rosie's window

Rosie next to another Airstream trailer in our Southeast Camping Unit's caravan

Rosie in our camp site

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